Rum Discovery

Straight up sugar cane

By Tony Cross

In the spring of 2018, I was able to get into the five-year anniversary party at the mezcal bar Gallo Pelon in Raleigh. It was a fun night shared with close friends at one of my favorite bars. What made the evening even more special was my introduction to Oaxacan Agricole rum.

Near the end of every year, I place my order online for different spirits that aren’t available through our state’s ABC system (which would be many). It’s basically my Christmas present to myself. Copious amounts. It never dawned on me to search for rums from the Oaxacan region until that night. So I did, and grabbed a bottle from Haiti while I was at it. I drank both bottles bone-dry, and couldn’t remember my name or how to do times-tables for three days.

I’m lying. I was the first kid in my third-grade class to remember their multiplication tables; that will never fade from my memory.

Paranubes Oaxacan Agricole Rum

“Made in the northern highlands of Oaxaca, where a sparsely inhabited sub-tropical climate produces some of the best sugar cane on Earth. Third-generation distiller Jose Luis Carrera works with several local varieties of cane grown organically and minimally processed during distillation, using only the fresh, lightly pressed cane juice.”

That’s the first thing I read about Paranubes rum. The next thing I noticed is the whopping 54 percent alcohol by volume. Yeah, I had to give this one a go. When it arrived (along with the other types of spirits I purchased), it was the first bottle I opened. On the nose, I could definitely smell sugar cane as soon as I popped the cork. But once in the glass, there was a peppery smell to it that I couldn’t quite nail down.

The next day, my buddy Carter gave it a go, and before his first sip, he said, “Hmm . . . smells like ketchup.” That’s it! I should’ve gotten that; I eat ketchup on almost everything. We both agreed it was a beautiful rum, from the nose, to the back of the palate. Just straight-up sugar cane. No additives. I read on their website that Jose Luis Carrera is able to produce 85 liters a day — the bottle is one liter. He could distill more for a faster production time, but doesn’t want to compromise the balance of his rum. Talk about quality.

The first drink I made with this was the classic Ti’ Punch: just a touch of organic cane sugar, lime, and Paranubes rum made my holiday week a little less stressful. I’ll give a recipe below.

Clairin Sajous Haitian Rhum Agricole

What struck my curiosity with this bottle were two things: One, it’s only been on the market for a couple of years; and two, I’ve never tasted clairin before. It was introduced to me as an eau de vie, similar to white Agricole rhums. So, what exactly is clairin? In a nutshell, it’s a distilled spirit made from sugar cane juice that is produced in Haiti. It gets its name (kleren in Haitian Creole) from its clear color. This clairin comes from an independent distillery that sits in the northern high-altitude village of Saint Michel de L’Attalaye and is run by Michel Sajous.

Just like the distillery of Paranubes, the Sajous Clairin is organically cultivated. Sajous uses the cristalline variety of sugar cane. This type of sugar cane doesn’t yield as much juice when pressed compared to larger production rum companies, but the juice that it does hold has a ton of character. In fact, this type of cane comes from small villages that use machinery without electricity. The sugar cane is also cut by hand and transported by ox carts or donkeys to the distilleries.

Wild beasts and sugar cane. That’s it, folks. It smells stronger than it tastes: grassy, slightly fruity, and very clean. Don’t let the 107 proof on the label scare you — indeed, this is high-octane, but there is so much flavor to decipher, and the clean finish makes this a new staple in my bar. I’m ordering three bottles next time. I recommend the Clairin Sajous definitely in a daiquiri, or on the rocks.

Are you a fan of rum? I feel like there are two groups: Those that like common, molasses-based rum (Molasses is made by boiling sugar cane juice, and then skimming off the top while it’s boiling. After this process is repeated many times, the end result is a thick and sweet liquid.) and those who like Agricole rhums that are made from sugar cane juice. I say that the first group likes “common rum” because that rum is everywhere and is always sweeter. Agricole rum can be more effluvious or funky, and that’s the rum I prefer.

Ti’ Punch

1 teaspoon organic cane sugar

1 fat lime wedge (not that half-moon, sliver-of-a-lime nonsense)

2 ounces rhum agricole (I use Paranubes)

Place sugar and lime into a rocks glass. Gently muddle lime into the sugar. Release the oils of the lime into the juice without pulverizing it. Add rum and ice. Give it a quick stir. Take your time and enjoy. OH

Tony Cross is a bartender (well, ex-bartender) who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.

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